12 books on insomnia and sleep disorders: A review

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Do you ever surreptitiously browse through the bookshelves of an colleague when you go visit their office? I did when I met with a Sleep Disorder Specialist the other day, and discovered these 12 titles that looked interesting. I bought some and borrowed the rest from interlibrary loan.

I have read through them all, and here are my personal recommendations: Which are useful to the layman, which would interest only the most dedicated scientist, and which are a waste of time.

Good practical knowledge

These 3 books are written by experts and have specific strategies for DIY insomniacs:

Good night: The sleep doctor’s 4 week program to better sleep and better health. (2006) by Michael Breus. Breus is clinical psychologist who oversees nine sleep labs in the southwest. Sample chapters include: 3 culprits of sleep: anxiety and stress, caffeine, gender; and 3 people who steal your sleep and how to manage them. Part III is a 28 day sleep boot camp with practical suggestions to dramatically improve sleep. Highly recommended.

The Insomnia Answer (2006) by Paul Glovinsky and Arthur Spielman. Dr. Pielman is one of the foremost experts on insomnia, a diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine. The book is well written and researched. 

It has a series of self-help questionnaires to determine what sleep patterns are bothering you. Sample chapters include: Why is sleep so unreliable, how did I get insomnia, identifying which type of insomnia you have. Highly recommended.

No more sleepless nights. (1996). By Dr. Peter Hauri, former director of Mayo Clinic insomnia program. This a revised edition of a classic in sleep disorder treatment. A good basic book for sleep disorders. Chapters include: make your diet work for your sleep, resetting your sleep clock, bedtime relaxation techniques. Recommended.

Second tier, but still worthwhile

I gained some additional knowledge from these two books, although they are not as good as the three recommended above:

50 ways to sleep better by the editors of Consumer Guide. (1995). Written in a clear, easy to understand way, although some of the advice, especially on medication is somewhat dated. Topics include: wean slowly from sleeping pills, establish presleep rituals, take a morning walk, beware of free-lance writer’s syndrome. It has a good section on helping children to sleep better.

Minding the Body by Donald Bakal (1999). Written from viewpoint of a psychiatrist. It includes topics such as somatic awareness, somatization, self-medication vs. self-soothing, placebos, fatigue in MS, bodily tensions in arthritis, existential shift in cancer. Although somewhat technical in nature, the author presents information in a readable style.

Academic, research based

Sometimes you really want to know the causes behind what you have. Especially if you have a science background, these might appeal to you:

Insomnia: Principles and Management (2003). Martin Szuba, Jacquieline Kloss and David Dinges, Eds. The authors are all academics who specialize in sleep medicine. Rather than a self-help book, this text gives a meta-analysis of what works and what doesn’t. 

Highly technical at times, it will give you the most current research on medications and addictions thereto, whether or not melatonin works [they still don’t know], down to amygdalar modulation of sleep regulation and hypothalamic pathways and neurotransmitters regulating sleep. It is expensive. I suggest that you get it through your local university library if you have an interest in the science of sleeplessness.

Treatment of late-life insomnia by Kenneth Lichstein & Charles Morin, Eds. 2000. Research studies including: sleep and aging, characteristics of older adults with insomnia, sleep restriction therapy, relaxation, cognitive therapy, discontinuation of sleep medications, secondary insomnia, insomnia in dementia. 

Somewhat technical and research based. However, if you have an interest in this population, you’d find this of value. Good meta-analysis studies.

These are different, but fun

These three books are not ‘how-to’ guides to cure insomnia, but rather an exploration of the effect of technology on our sleeping, how our chronology effects all our behavior, and the ways we dream. Good for background knowledge and just plain interesting reading!

The Mind at Night by Andrea Rock (2004). All you ever wanted to know about how and why we dream. This book is written in narrative form, with an interest in people. It goes into such esoteric topics as: personality classification through dream analysis, why we dream about homes and automobiles, motion and sex in dreams, lucid dreaming. Good bibliography.

The body clock guide to better health. (2000) Michael Smolensky and Lynne Lamberg. More general in nature, covering everything from fitness by the clock, when to eat, time for sex. There are good chapters on jet lag and shift work. While not recommended specifically for insomnia, is a good stand alone reference work on understanding your body’s chronology.

Healing Night: The science and spirit of sleeping, dreaming, and awakening: by Rubin Naiman (2006). A narrative of the mood states falling between sleep and wake. Rather than a ‘how to sleep’ checklist, this book goes into the philosophical reasons why technology in the form of artificial light has caused us to enter a state of permanent sleep deprivation. He suggests ways we might remedy this.

Not recommended

I am not sure why medical doctors often think they automatically can write. These two can’t! You’ll do better with the books listed above.

100 Questions & Answers about sleep and sleep disorders, 2nd Ed. (2008). Sudhansu Chokroverty. Author is highly acclaimed expert on sleep disorders, but book is poorly designed and not easy to use. If you have a specific question that happens to fit in his categories, this book might be useful. For example: Restless Legs syndrome is a topic of special interest to the author and is covered in more depth. Not recommended.

Dr. Drowsy’s Sleep Prescription by Dr. Albert Wauquier (2003). I was disappointed by this one. Although there are cute cartoons, the body of the book is written in a cryptic hard to understand style, almost as though a doctor decided he needed something in his office to give to patients. Not recommended.

So there you have it. Twelve books on sleep, some of which are sure to help you snooze better!

Related Post:

Top Internet sources for insomnia and sleep disorders

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About Intrepid Explorer

By writing we discover the world
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